As air traffic to and within Africa increased, many countries on the continent had embarked on airport construction, expansion and upgrading initiatives to boost its aviation infrastructure and capacity, said Airport Council International (ACI) Africa project manager for membership, communication and strategy Tebello Mokhema.
Speaking at the African Airports Expansion Summit, in Sandton, on Thursday, she commented that, while many African countries were facing political unrest, the majority were settling and hoping to maximise the benefits of growth and meet the rising demand in the tourism industries and grow investments.
ACI predicted that from 2012 to 2016, the continent would achieve the fourth-highest air passenger growth rate in the world, averaging about 5.4% a year.
Munich Airport Company senior airport adviser Reinhard Zeiler added that Africa’s aviation industry, which currently employed about 56-million people, would carry three-billion passengers in its airspace this year.
The Asia Pacific and the Middle East were expected to record passenger growth rates of 7.34% and 6.32% a year respectively. Passenger growth in Latin America would reach 6% a year.
North America and Europe were expected to lag with growth rates of 2.66% and 3.38% a year respectively during the period.
Mokhema said Africa hosted seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies, namely Ethiopia, Mozambique, Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana.
However, despite this, only 1% of global aviation investment was directed into Africa. This compared with 29% each into North America and the Asia Pacific and 24% into Europe.
While South Africa had mostly completed its airport expansion plans and now had to focus on maintaining and stressing those assets, several countries, including Mozambique, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt and Libya were undertaking significant expansion programmes, most of which were expected to be completed by next year.
Morocco targeted a number of its airports in a collective $565-million rehabilitation and expansion programme targeting, besides others, the Oujda, Marrakech-Menara and Mohammed V International airports, which would be completed by year end.
Togo, owing to its own rapid aviation growth, last year embarked on a $150-million project to construct a new airport hub, convert the airport it was replacing into a commercial centre, and extend its cargo capacity by another 35 000 t.
Meanwhile, Libya, which experienced significant unrest in 2011, was “getting back to business” and aimed to increase air traffic by expanding, rehabilitating and upgrading 19 airports over the next two to three years.
Zambia, in a $450-million project, was completing many airport renewals, including the construction of the new Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport, formerly Livingstone; developing the current infrastructure into a domestic terminal and reconstructing the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, which was built in 1938 and formerly known as Ndola International Airport.
Kenya, in efforts to progress to a category 1 status and boost Nairobi as the commercial and financial hub of East and Central Africa, embarked on two key projects – a $72.3-million and a $1.14-billion upgrade and expansion of the Manda Airstrip and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport respectively, which would be completed by year-end.
Further, Egypt’s Cairo Airport, in 2010, kicked off a five-year $436-million rehabilitation and expansion programme; Nigeria was currently remodelling 11 of its 22 airports, which would be completed by June 2014; and Mozambique kicked off a three-year $450-million expansion programme in 2011.